October 3, 2005
Species act backers pin hopes on Senate
BY JOHN DODGE
Critics of the U.S. House- approved changes in the 1973 federal Endangered Species Act are counting on the Senate to derail the bill.
Left in place, the bill that passed the House 229-193 last week could unravel protections of old-growth forests in the Northwest that are home to the ESA-listed northern spotted owl, said Joe Scott, international programs director for Conservation Northwest, a Bellingham-based conservation group.
Scott based his comments on a provision in the bill championed by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. It eliminates critical habitat designations for threatened and endangered species.
The bill calls for recovery plans for imperiled species and protection of areas of special value but does nothing to guarantee how much habitat would be protected, Scott said.
Most observers in Washington state and Washington, D.C., said the bill has little chance of passing the Senate and becoming law.
"This bill takes reform to an extreme," said Alex Glass, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "The bill faces major challenges in the Senate."
"I don't even know if the Senate will take the bill up," said state Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings. "We're cautiously optimistic that the Senate will be too busy."
Koenings said a provision in the bill, which requires landowners to be compensated if the presence of a threatened or endangered species limits what they can do with their land, would create havoc for the Puget Sound chinook recovery plan, which calls for major increases in habitat protection along rivers, streams and watersheds.
"Recovering Puget Sound chinook would become tremendously more expensive," he said.
It isn't clear how the federal government could afford to compensate landowners, but the provision does have appeal for property owners who have made sacrifices to preserve land for fish and wildlife, noted Sherry Fox, a Lewis County tree farmer who, along with her husband, Tom, last week were named National Tree Farmers of the Year by the American Forest Foundation.
'No surprises' clause
She said she supported another provision in the law, which says the federal government can't come back at a later date and tell a landowner who enters into a habitat conservation plan with the feds to do more to protect species. It's the so-called "no surprises" clause.
The Fox family's 144-acre farm is covered by a habitat conservation plan that includes the no surprises clause.
"Without it, there is no incentive for the property owner to grow the habitat," she said. "And we want to grow some old timber."
On Friday, officials at the Audubon Society's state office were calling the House bill "the extinction bill."
Since the landmark bill became law, only nine of 1,268 listed species have gone extinct, said Heath Packard, field director of Audubon's state office. "ESA is our safety net, and the Pombo bill cuts holes in that safety net."
Supporters of the Pombo legislation use numbers to tell a different story. Fewer than a dozen of those same species have recovered sufficiently to take them off the ESA list, noted David Wilson, president of the National Association of Home Builders. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said 16 listed species have recovered enough to be taken off the list.
Some had the opinion Friday that Pombo's measure would have less effect on certain threatened and endangered species in this state because of existing state and local laws to protect habitat.
For instance, state and private timberland owners are required under the state Forests and Fish law to limit timber harvesting along rivers and streams to protect listed salmon species, said Cindy Mitchell, spokeswoman for the Washington Forest Protection Association.
"We're trying to make ESA work in its current form," she said. "But we're always looking for more incentives to create habitat, rather than heavy-handed regulatory approaches."
The 10-year, $1.5 billion plan to recover Puget Sound chinook that was crafted in the region and forwarded to the federal government this summer will rely in large part on habitat protection provided by city, county and state land-use ordinances, said Jim Kramer of Shared Strategies.
At the same time, the recovery plan assumes a major boost in habitat for salmon.
"It is confusing for the public," Kramer said. "We're saying we need to protect a lot more habitat than the feds call for in their critical habitat plan for Puget Sound salmon."
Billy Frank Jr.
In testimony last week before a Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr. represented the Northwest tribal perspective on the Endangered Species Act.
"The goals and objectives of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 are more essential today than they have ever been," the American Indian leader and Nisqually tribal member said. "It has helped return the mighty (bald) eagle and the gray whale from the brink of extinction. It has helped bring attention to the plight of the salmon, and it has helped bring some badly needed funding to the effort to turn the tide on salmon decline."
Posted by at October 3, 2005 9:25 AM | 2. In the News
With this administration any legislation having been put into place to protect the health of the planet is apt to be repealed simply because it might cost developers money or keep corporations/potential builders from making money. AS Mr. Frank Jr. stated,the ESA is working and it is needed now more than ever. We need some green in the House and the Senate in place of corporate lobbyists.
Posted by: Mona Beard at October 4, 2005 6:06 PM
Press Contact Ellis Goldberg 925 831 8355 EllisG237@aol.com
October 12 2005 Jerry McNerney www.jerrymcnerney.org announced his candidacy for the US Congress. He gave the following address.
Today I am very proud to announce that I am running for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s 11th Congressional District.
In 2004 I challenged Richard Pombo when no other Democrat was willing to run because I was sick and tired of seeing Richard Pombo vote to further the interests of his campaign contributors rather than to promote the common good. I could not stay silent and stood up for what I knew was right. When I did, many of you stood up with me. Our grassroots campaign went on to accomplish what no one thought possible by receiving more than 104,000 votes. Since November of 2004, it has become even more obvious to the people in our district that instead of working for the needs of hardworking families, Richard Pombo is using his position of trust to enrich himself and his cronies. Our nation is now in desperate need of strong and honest leadership that has a positive plan for our future. I’m asking voters to join me so that together we can change the direction of our country.
Recent events illustrate just how corrupt and badly out of touch Richard Pombo is with the American people. His primary focus in the Congress has been to kill the Endangered Species Act, while ignoring the needs of the people in his district. But his recent threat to sell off National Parks unless he gets his way to allow drilling off the California coast shows how extreme he has become.
It appears that everything Richard Pombo does in the Congress is calculated to benefit himself and his cronies. For example, he has just authored a new Species Extinction Act that will force the government to pay landowners, like Richard Pombo, the speculative value of property inhabited by Endangered Species. Any landowner lucky enough to have an endangered plant on his or her land will be able to claim from our government any profits their land could produce now or in future years. Richard Pombo stands to benefit from this bill. This is just another attempt by the right wing to bankrupt our government and profit the wealthy.
In another case of recent corruption, Richard Pombo used federal tax dollars for partisan political campaign purposes by sending out 175,000 glossy, two-page leaflets to voters around the country promoting George W. Bush just weeks before the 2004 general election. This is a clear violation of ethics. But widespread corruption in the Republican controlled Congress has prevented any federal investigation Richard Pombo or Tom Delay.
Richard Pombo also paid his wife and brother $375,000 of campaign funds. Wouldn’t you like to be able to shake down donors who want your legislative favor, then turn around and “pay” you wife and brother? Where I come from this is called corruption.
Highway 205 connecting 580 to I5 is the most congested highway in the district and has been for a long time. But instead of securing monies to widen this highway, Richard Pombo has proposed that the government build a new highway right over the top of rugged Mount Hamilton and has earmarked millions of federal transportation dollars to study the proposal. Just commissioning this study has significantly increased the value of the Pombo family property. If the highway is built, Pombo will earn millions while the rest of us continue to be stuck in traffic.
This district has congested and decaying highways, a levee that recently failed and more about to fail, air pollution that is among the worst in the nation, unemployment that is twice the state average, and an education system that needs serious attention. Richard Pombo is one of the most powerful men in Congress, and yet his district has been badly neglected. He is ineffective and part of a pervasive culture of corruption within the Republican Party, and this corruption is hurting us and the nation by financing a massive giveaway to oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other corporations on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. This is no way to run a government. How dare they call themselves conservative!
I am running to correct this. I am running on a platform of Responsible Investing in America. I believe we need to step up to the plate and invest in America just like our parents and grandparents did so that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren a nation that is strong and prosperous.
We can strengthen America by investing our energy infrastructure and in developing new energy systems so that we no longer forced to pay outrageous prices for gas and oil to foreign countries, some of which are dictators and tyrants, and some of which pass our money on to terrorists. By making such investments in our energy infrastructure, we will create jobs right here that can not be exported, we will improve our national security, and we will protect God’s beautiful creation and our pristine areas in national parks and offshore waters.
I am running on a platform of investing in Americans by investing in our educational system so that everyone in our district can have the opportunity to use their God given talents to succeed in this wonderful land of ours and help make this a better world. By investing in our educational system, as our parents did for us, we will enable our children to be the most productive workers in the world and will once again help America to inspire the world, as it did when John F. Kennedy began the investments that send Americans to the moon.
Many people in our district live without any health coverage whatsoever, and the rest of us face an increasing burden of health care costs. We can change this. I will work with anyone in the Congress, and I will not rest until our country provides affordable health care to all Americans, starting with our youngest children.
I am proud to stand tall for what the Democratic Party has always stood for – the average hard working families of our country. This campaign is not about Jerry McNerney, it’s about the common needs we all share. We will be speaking about the things that matter to the people of our country, things such as protecting Social Security, creating good jobs with living wages, cleaning the dirty air that is causing so many health problems, and easing the traffic congestion that frustrates so many of us. We ask all of you to join in the conversation.
My message to you is that I am still here. I ran in 2004, and I will work tirelessly to win your support in 2006. I am committed to the people of this district and don’t give up easily. I’ve spent the last two years visiting all parts of the district. I’ve walked precincts in every town and I’ve met thousands of people. I’ve listened to their concerns and know what people want and what they dream. I ask you to join me and together we will get our country back on the right track.
Posted by: Ellis Goldberg at October 16, 2005 3:09 PM
McNerney calls for congressional investigation of Richard Pombo
“Every day, new revelations uncover more corruption within the Republican Party” Pleasanton CA Congressional Candidate Jerry McNerney (www.JerryMcNerney.org) commented about the latest story about how House Resource Committee Chairman Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, may have violated tax laws in connection with two trips to New Zealand and Japan that cost more than $23,000. “It is time for a congressional investigation of House Resource Committee Chairman Pombo’s activities. They cannot be swept under the carpet and overlooked by his cronies on the Ethics Committee anymore.”
McNerney continued, “When taken as a whole, the record is a picture of persistent corruption. The latest story is that he took two expensive trips paid for by anti-environmental groups with legislation before his committee.”
McNerney connects the dots: “The Congressman uses his chairmanship to help other Congressmen garner donations from those who want influence with the Resources Committee. That is why Tom DeLay appointed him chairman over more senior Republicans; DeLay knew Pombo was not only corrupt but that he would help DeLay corrupt others.
Pombo continues to receive funds and direct the distribution of funds from Indian gaming interests with legislation before the Resources Committee. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Pombo’s biggest contributor, directed the Indian gaming funds to Republican candidates in exchange for influence in Congress. Mr. Abramoff is now busy but the tribes continue to make contribution anyway.”
“The Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan plans to spend more than $300,000 on political donations in the 2006 fiscal year, according to the Sept. 27 memo, a sum somewhat less than in the tribe’s years with Abramoff — in which it made several large donations to questionable nonprofits — but still sufficient to wield substantial political influence. Those receiving the largest donations on the list are House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), with $7,000 contributions.” noted Josephine Hearn, a writer for The Hill http://www.thehill.com, a Congressional newspaper.
Mr. Pombo has taken campaign contributions from Indian casino interests with legislation before his committee. He used his official position to influence legislation directly benefiting campaign donors. In an event called “Pombo Palooza,” Abramoff offered $5,000 seats at last year’s all-star baseball game to tribes that want power plants on their lands without any environmental oversight. Later the same week Pombo demanded that the House Senate Conference on the 2005 Energy Bill allow power plants without any environmental oversight on tribal lands.
Looking at the big picture, McNerney commented “This high-impact corruption has to do with energy interests who stand to gain the most by drilling for oil offshore and in ANWR. These are the same interests whose record profits are obscene. These are the interests that the President lied for in order to invade Iraq. Much of the financing for terrorist groups comes from the price we pay at the pumps for imported oil.
In the month before he continued to push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, campaign finance records show that Rep. Richard Pombo took about $13,000 from donors in Alaska for his political action committee. Donors include executives at an engineering and construction company that likely would be at the forefront of ANWR development and an official from a Native Alaskan corporation that stood to profit from oil drilling if a 1.5 million-acre section of the reserve is opened.
Representative Pombo acted as the spokesperson in Congress for Chevron in its bid against China for Unocal. Pombo accepted $13,000 from Chevron over 3 years and then allowed Chevron lobbyists to draft his letter to the Treasury Secretary favoring Chevron in the Unocal sale. That’s bribery!
The congressman’s corruption extends to misuse of government funds and employees. Richard Pombo misused his staff of government employees for campaign purposes. He gave his staff a month off with pay plus expenses just before the 2004 election so they could work on his campaign. Richard Pombo misused congressional franking privileges by sending political mailers at a cost to taxpayers of $68,000. He used federal tax dollars for partisan political campaign purposes by sending out 175,000 glossy two-page leaflets to voters around the country just weeks before the 2004 general election promoting George W. Bush, in clear violation of franking rules. The Republican-dominated Ethics Committee failed to investigate.”
McNerney concluded, “As long as Republicans control Congress, they will continue this outrage. We must take back Congress in 2006 so that they won’t be able to prevent an honest investigation.”
Posted by: Ellis Goldberg at October 20, 2005 2:09 AM